What did the genealogy look like in the original version of Tobit? Did it look like the one in Vaticanus, or like the one in Sinaiticus, or neither?

Tobit 1:1:

  • Codex Vaticanus B —


    My translation: Book of words of Tobit of Tobiel of Ananiel of Adouel of Gabael, out of the seed of Asiel, out of the tribe of Nephtali.

  • Codex Sinaiticus א —


    My translation: Book of words of Tobit of Tobiel of Ananiel of Adouel of Gabael of Raphael of Ragouel, out of the seed of Asiel, out of the tribe of Nephtali.

The one in Sinaiticus is longer, as it mentions 2 extra names. I'm not concerned with the spelling differences in Tobit's name or the absence/presence of the definite article before φυλης, as these minor details seem to be more indicative of translation style/preference and probably doesn't give us much insight into the original Hebrew or Aramaic.

  • By the way, I firmly believe that Tobit (the original version, not Greek 1 and Greek 2) is divinely inspired scripture. That is why I am interested in reconstructing the original as much as possible. Aug 12, 2018 at 23:35

2 Answers 2


My theory is that the original version of Tobit had a genealogy similar to the genealogy in א.

Perhaps the translator who introduced the Greek 1 recension was translating from either Hebrew or Aramaic, but there was a hole where the names "Raphael" and "Ragouel" were supposed to be. Or maybe the names "Raphael" and "Ragouel" were written illegibly in the Hebrew/Aramaic manuscript which the author of the Greek 1 recension was copying from. In either case, the translator would have been forced to omit the names. What else was he supposed to do? Throw in the towel and not translate the Book of Tobit at all?

What if Greek 2 was written after Greek 1? What if the author of the Greek 2 recension was going off of a manuscript in the original language in addition to an already existing copy of Greek 1, in aims to produce a more accurate version of Tobit while, at the same time, imitating the style of Greek 1? (I have noticed that many parts of the Book of Tobit are verbatim the same across both Greek versions.)

Alternatively, what if Greek 2 came first and the author of Greek 1 had access to a filled-with-holes manuscript of Greek 2? That would also explain how the author of Greek 1 could skip over two names.

In either case, I don't find it very plausible that Vaticanus has the more accurate genealogy. If it does, where do the two extra names come from? They would have had to be deliberate additions to the text.


Well, Jerome translated from the Aramaic version, so which ever agrees with the Vulgate we might expect to be more representative of the original Aramaic. Indeed, the Greek versions differ significantly from the Aramaic of which the Vulagte Tobit is a translation (see his Prologue to Tobit).

The Vulgate reads (Tobit 1:1-2):

Tobías ex tribu et civitáte Nephtháli (quæ est in superióribus Galilǽæ supra Naásson, post viam quæ ducit ad occidéntem, in sinístro habens civitátem Sephet) 2 cum captus esset in diébus Salmanásar regis Assyriórum, in captivitáte tamen pósitus, viam veritátis non deséruit,

That is (DRB):

Tobias of the tribe and city of Nephtali, (which is in the upper parts of Galilee above Naasson, beyond the way that leadeth to the west, having on the right hand the city of Sephet,) 2 When he was made captive in the days of Salmanasar king of the Assyrians, even in his captivity, forsook not the way of truth,

In my estimation, the Greek versions appear to be later Greek translations (traditions unto themselves in some ways) with accumulated information known about Tobit, but not strictly original to the work, but which was in any case inserted into the book over the decades and centuries. I of course speak of the 'extra' (humor the question-begging) geneological information.

According to the introduction/textual information for the NETS translation for Tobit, the Old Latin (Vetus Latina) follows/is a translation of the Greek version found in Sinaiticus [Gk II] (as distinct from the Vulgate of Jerome, which took from an Aramaic version available to Jerome in his day—he mentions nothing of the Greek versions, or we can safely guess, in Jerome style, he viewed them as corruptions of the original; which indeed they appear to be).

Clearly, we have no insight into whether the Aramaic version Jerome had in his day was an Aramaic tradition identical or close to the original Tobit as written by its original author. Except we do have Jerome's fierce textual perfectionism and 'Hebrew truth' frame of mind. That he would accept any old Aramaic version without somehow falsifying its originality by consulting the Hebrews themselves is more than just doubtful.

As such, there is no definitive way to know which textual tradition is closer to the original Tobit because we lack the original, and several traditions are more or less equally valid candidates either in part or as a general whole.

If one were to ask my opinion, I'd say it's safe to assume that Jerome selecting this Aramaic version over and against ones with more or less agreed with the Greek versions, such as even some found at Qumran which represent a partial agreement in some respects, with both Greek versions, and assumed this was therefore more likely to be the original, it being in Aramaic, but evidently not a translation of a Greek (i.e. it was clearly an Aramaic original, of which the Semitisms throughout are clear evidence).

Without access to the original, it's hard to side with their, since the geneologies are uncorroborated elsewhere, and are unfalsifiable.

P.S. I recognize the incomplete, inadequate, and inconclusive nature of my answer: this is just my input at the moment—my two cents.

  • 1
    The problem is, I have the feeling that St. Jerome deviated from his usual "fierce textual perfectionism" when translating Tobit. I mean, Jerome admits that he translated it in a single day. (Isn't that a bit rushed?) On top of that, he was making a translation of a translation, since he needed someone to translate the Aramaic into Hebrew before he would translate the Hebrew into Latin. Aug 10, 2018 at 21:59
  • Also, in his preface to Judith, Jerome admits that he "conveyed in Latin only what I could find expressed coherently in the Chaldean words," implying that he must have skipped over some stuff. If he could skip over stuff in Judith, why not in Tobit as well? He also admitted that his translation of Judith was more "thought for thought" instead of word for word, and I suspect his translation of Tobit is more thought-for-thought as well. Aug 10, 2018 at 22:04
  • ''Meaning for meaning' for scrupulous and perfectionist Jerome does not mean Good News Bible paraphrase. He said, "But since the Nicene Council is considered to have counted this book among the number of sacred Scriptures,.." and elsewhere stated his reverence for the words of Scriptural texts, i.e. he wouldn't paraphrase them specifically. For Jerome there was paraphrase, there was rendering the Hebrew in its equivalent in Latin, and there was a rigid and wooden (and thus poor) translation. Jerome rejected the first, and consistently seems to have held to the second method of translation. Aug 10, 2018 at 22:34

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